Friday, March 16, 2012

Only Christ

Priests are humans like anyone else, and depending on what church they minister in, and what pressures they are under, and their own spiritual development, they can act in any number of ways.

Unfortunately the institutional church of modern times, and maybe of all times, tends to recruit men who soon forget their first love and go at it with a pick and shovel, as if it were just another job. Instead of removing the artificial wall between their personal daily life and God, so God can spill over into their lives, they remove it so that their personalities with all their weaknesses can spill over and bury the talent (the call) God has given them.

When a priest or clergyman truly forgets himself and lives and walks in wisdom and love, we think he is a saint. But that's how all ordained clergy should be; that's what the call is all about, not about becoming an institutional functionary or, in the Greek church, an ethnarch (leader of his ethnos, or tribe), either a businessman or a mafioso, depending on the degree of his ambition and his social environment.

It is disturbing to me how many people have bad experiences with clergy. I've never had any, at least not of the kind most people describe. In my childhood priests were sacred persons, and all the ones I ever met were kind and supportive. In my youth and young adulthood, I didn't regard them with any special awe and I have never since: to me they're no different from myself, except that they have accepted the call to be total sacrifices for God.

Knowing them to be in large part deceived as most people are about their real motives but trying to do their best, I regard all of them with deference and indulgence. But their office doesn't impress me; only holiness impresses me, and I find holiness more commonly in lay people than in the clergy. That doesn't bother me at all.

I have sometimes received a rebuke from an Orthodox priest or presbytera, and I have humbly accepted it, and repented, because they have always been right. I never judged them as to whether or not they were better or worse than me in following Christ. Because it is always only Christ I am hearing and experiencing when I encounter the visible Church. And He helps me navigate through the narrows without injury, no matter who I am with.

Christians need more confidence to stand on the Word of God, to be comfortable with the call to personal discipleship and the authority it gives them. I don’t mean the vain and showy authority of those who cast out devils and ‘in the name of Jesus’ knock people down with their ‘Holy Ghost anointing’. Just the authority to be who they are in Christ. To be a first-born son (or daughter) and citizen of heaven is no small dignity, and salvation is not a heavy chain to hang around our necks in make-believe or a heavy crown to bow down our heads in mock sorrow.

A priest, no matter what he feels like, has to remember, he is Christ to many of his congregation. What he says and does, to a minute level, matters.

We start out as created beings, with a beginning and end. But God loves us so much, that He remembers us so we have no end, and then, to join us to Himself in even closer affiliation, He sends Himself to us as His Son, to finish His act of surrendering His eternity to us, making us now beings who, though created with a beginning and end, have become creatures beginningless and endless. He takes us beyond our personal and racial pasts to that place before time and world was, where He finds us hidden in the side of Jesus, the Lamb slain before the foundation of the universe.

God is good, and He loves and forgives all,
and His mercy endures forever.

Yes, whatever happens to us, it is only Christ.


Jim Swindle said...

I've seen lots of pastors of Protestant churches: a few really bad ones, many mediocre ones, a few whose holiness was admirable, and one whose faithfulness is a marvel of the Lord's grace--though even that man, of course, has failings. We must be careful to worship the Lord himself, and to love him, and to love his church, whether or not the particular leader in front of us is excellent. Even the bad leaders need our love, though they don't need us to ignore their sin.

Are you aware of this poem by George Herbert?

Ρωμανός ~ Romanós said...

Thanks, brother, for your comment, and for the poem, which I just read, and it is quite good, because it's true.